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Choose wisely… How to Choose a Roofing Contractor

Sooner or later, every home needs a new roof. However, the contractor you choose can make all the difference in the world when it comes to protecting your most important investment!

Many homeowners choose a company based on 1. Price, 2. Convincing sales pitch and glossy literature, or 3. Reviews and ratings online. While choosing based on reviews and ratings is the best method of the three, arming yourself with some ‘roofing knowledge’ and interviewing your bidders can go a long way to building the confidence that you are selecting the right firm. In this post, we are looking at common mistakes made by inexperienced, careless, or untrained (or unlicensed) roof companies and installation crews.

When you think of your roof, you must imagine layers that all work together to create a watertight roof system. Your roof decking is the foundation on which your roof is built, then the layers all overlap from the bottom to the top, to move water off the roof. Working from the bottom, the drip edge flashing protects the raw edge of the decking. Waterproofing underlayment is installed and overlaps the drip edge to protect the decking surface and provide the primary water barrier for your roof. As you move up the roof, various wall flashings, crickets, valley flashing, vent flashing boots, and skylight flashings all work in layers to keep water moving from top to bottom – all overlapped from the bottom to the top. At the top ridge, you can install ridge vents, or off-ridge vents to allow the attic to breathe and expel the heat built up throughout the day.

Considering not all roofers abide by the same values and ethics, there are numerous approaches to how each system is built, how they all fit together, and the warranty the roofer is willing to put on their work. For us at Tactical Roofing Company, we offer a lifetime workmanship warranty. That means for the life of your shingles, we warrant that our installation was done properly and that it will not leak.

Some common problems we have seen or have been asked to come to fix behind other roofing companies include:

Not Removing Old Shingles

While it might be legal in some areas to place new shingles over existing ones, it is one of the biggest mistakes in roofing. After all, there is a reason that nobody does this practice any longer, and why the current building code frowns upon the practice. The proper way to replace any roofing shingles is to remove the old and replace them with the new. This allows for a complete deck inspection to replace any rotten decking and the application of new waterproofing underlayment. Again, your roof is a system and by replacing only the outermost portion of the system, you can’t expect all the underlying materials to magically become new again.

This should be the standard when you are getting work done on your roof and is necessary when you are trying to repair the damage.

Reusing Old Flashing

Flashing is a thin material, typically aluminum, that helps prevent damage to your roof and other roof features like vents, chimneys, and skylights. The biggest job of flashing is to redirect water to help prevent water damage and leaks.

A common roofing mistake is to reuse the old flashing. While the existing flashing might appear to be in good condition, it is a best practice to replace the flashing along with the roof shingles or tiles. If the flashing is reused, you run the risk of some potential issues with water damage or leaks in your roof.

Securing of Flashing

Flashing plays a critically important role in the quality of your roof. Not only should you always use new flashing, but it’s also important to make sure it is installed properly. If it is misaligned, improperly overlapped, or not fastened correctly, then your roof won’t be protected against water damage from the heavy rain and winds we experience in the Tampa area. Our standard practice is to use roofing cement to seal the underside of the flashing to the deck/underlayment, then another layer of cement on top of the flashing. This double sealing ensures secure placement and a leak-proof roof system.

Imprecise Nail Placement

There are exact locations nails and fasteners should be placed when applying a new roof. If nails are placed in the wrong location, it can cause structural issues. One of the biggest issues is placing the nail where it is exposed to the elements rather than being placed underneath the top layer of shingles. If they are exposed, they can corrode and lead to holes in your shingles, which will make it easier for water and wind to damage your roof. Additionally, the nails should be fully driven into the deck, without penetrating through the shingles, a flush nail head is essential to the life of your roof.

Incorrect Nail Length

For each style of shingle, there is a corresponding style and length of nail. If an improper nail length is used, there is an increased risk of shingles loosening. This will lead to shingles shifting, which will ultimately reduce the lifespan of your roof. Nails should go well into the decking to be able to securely hold the shingle in place.

Poor Attic Ventilation

Your attic is an essential part of your roof. If you forget about it, it can lead to damage and a shorter lifespan of your new roofing. Your attic plays an important role in making sure the tiles or shingles on your roof have a solid foundation.

Your attic should be well ventilated. Without ventilation, your attic can become too hot, which will lead to excess heat build-up, and can damage your roof. This can also ruin your attic’s insulation which will only increase your energy costs until it is repaired. This is the number one cause of premature shingle and roof decking failure.

We have seen new roofs installed for less than five years that have filed and become brittle due to poor ventilation! Attic ventilation should be calculated for every roof! If your roofer doesn’t know how to calculate the proper amount of ventilation, please do yourself a favor and find another roofer!

Failing to get a Roofing Permit

A roofing permit makes sure you get a roof that is safe for you and follows state and local building codes. In Florida, all work more than $2500 requires a permit, and every permit agency in the state requires a permit to install a new roof. If you are caught installing a roof without one, the installation of your roof can be immediately put on suspension no matter the current condition of the roof, resulting in potential fines and fees. *In Florida, only licensed roofers can pull permits, which is another protection for the homeowner against inferior work practices.

Not installing a Drip Edge

A drip edge is made of aluminum installed at the edge of the roof. Their job is to redirect any water away from the wall of your home and into the gutter. Without a drip edge, water may end up under your shingles and can cause damage to your home. Some older homes don’t have a drip edge installed, but it is required in most modern building codes. A drip edge also makes sure that wind-driven rain doesn’t get up and under your roof. Florida Building Code (2020) has specific requirements concerning the nailing pattern for drip edge flashing in each wind zone. Make sure your roofer knows the expectations and complies, as this is an integral part of ensuring your roofing system stays in place during storms.

Failing to Use Starter Strips

Eaves are the overhang on your roof and are the starting point for roofing. Unfortunately, a common roofing mistake comes when starting the roofing project. A starter section of shingles should always be laid along the eaves and rake edges. Starter strips are not the same as regular shingles and are used to seal the first course of shingles along the eave. Without a starter strip, water may make its way onto the roof deck and lead to water damage. Manufacturers produce and require starter strips as a key component of their roofing systems because they know what a critical role they play in the overall system. If your roofer is using shingles installed ‘upside down’ to cut corners, what other corners might they be cutting you are unaware of? Ask to see an example roof delivery ticket to see what materials were ordered! If there are no starter shingles, you know you are likely to have future problems.

Failing to Use Ridge Cap Shingles

Like starter shingles, ridge cap shingles are designed for the hips and ridges on your roof. They are specially designed for their specific purpose and complete the final component in your roofing system. Again, cutting regular shingles or using ripper 3-tab shingles is a cost-cutting inferior approach that only signals an inferior install.

Not Adding an Underlayment

Once the existing shingles or tiles are removed, and the deck is nailed in accordance with current code requirements, a layer of underlayment should be applied before any new materials are added. Roofing underlayment adds a water-resistant or waterproof barrier that the rest of your roof can be built upon. This important layer helps protect your home and roof and helps your roof have a longer life.

There are two types of underlayment allowed by the Florida Building Code (2020): 1. Synthetic underlayment in two layers, and 2. Peel and stick waterproofing. At Tactical Roofing Company, we only use peel and stick underlayment for several reasons. The peel and stick underlayment adhere to the roof deck and is less likely to come off in a storm. Additionally, the peel and stick membrane is ‘self-healing’ which means it seals around nails and further protects against future leaks. Lastly, peel and stick membrane is a requirement for all roofing systems when complying with the highest levels of high-wind zone requirements. That signals it is the best practice for wind resistance systems, thus we use it on every one of the roofs we install. 

Not Following Manufacturer’s Guidelines

Everything that goes on your roof has instructions that should be followed. It can appear as small print on the boxes or packaging the equipment comes in, but it is necessary information. Some people consider themselves experts on roofing, and they ignore the directions of the manufacturers’ instructions. Ignoring the manufacturer’s guidelines leads to improper installation and can lead to an increased chance of damage. Further, permit agencies inspect that the installation is done in accordance with manufacturer installation instructions, although no agency is infallible. That means your roofer must have the integrity to do things right all the time, not just during inspections.

Some roofing supplies provide warranties, but it requires the guidelines to be followed. If the materials are installed or handled improperly, the warranty is typically voided.

Not Considering the Slope of the Roof

A common mistake with roofers is to assume that what works on one roof will work on all homes. This is not the case. The slope of your roof changes the materials used in roofing your home. Lower slopes allow for roll roofing (anything less than 3/12 slope is not adequate for shingle installations), while higher pitches are reserved for shingles and tiles. Choosing the wrong material for the slope of the roof can leave the roof open to water penetration and damage.

Poor Shingle Alignment

One of the easiest ways to see a poor roofing job is to look at the shingle alignment. If the cutouts on shingles are not vertical or if the joins aren’t on the same horizontal plane, the shingles are misaligned. While this can visually make your roof look unorganized and sloppy, it’s also a problem with the coverage and protection of your roof. Misaligned shingles create cracks and gaps in roof coverage and provide places for water to cause damage to your roof, roof deck, and home.

Incorrect Shingle Exposure

Shingles have recommended lengths they should be exposed between layers. If they are too clustered together, which shortens the exposure, your shingles are vulnerable to collecting moisture during a rainstorm or being blown off. If your shingles are too far apart, your roof is not getting the protection it needs and there is potential for water damage.

Improper Shingle Overhang

Shingles shouldn’t stop at your roof edge. They should hang over the roof, even if there is a drip edge. A common mistake with roofing is to either cut the overhang too short or too long. Too much overhang increases the risk of the shingles blowing off in high winds, and too little overhang allows water to seep into the rake or fascia boards. Typical shingle overhang should be between ¼” to ¾” depending on the specific codes in your area.

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